It was such a lovely Saturday. I didn’t blog yesterday. I think that’s why the trashart was flowing yesterday. I’m still using bits and pieces of the ocean beach plastic from eco-services of Mission Beach Cathy fame. I combine it with winecorks donated by my real life friends and then “clean” trash from around the house. I think I must be thinking about Christmas, and also in general I tend to make happy wine-cork people.
But yesterday was really lovely when I sit and reflect on how things were. We did go shopping for our teen daughter’s best friend’s unbirthday present (inside joke) at Barnes and Noble, but I put back the single-use expensive gift bag. We instead wrapped it in the pretty paper the World Wildlife Federation sent us, and ribbon that was essentially “new” that has been in the house for many many years. I also had two books in hand, but I put them away at the last moment. I realize there are so many books at home I haven’t finished reading and these days I prefer my own thoughts and writing/blogging rather than other people’s voices in my head. I started rereading “You Are Here” by Thich Nhat Hanh which not surprisingly resonates with me since I was essentially raised within a philisophically Buddhist household that also practices what Westerners term “ancestor worship.” I am essentially a Westerner but I find the term ancestor worship inadequate. On one general information webpage writes, “The Vietnamese accept as a fact that their ancestors continue to live in another realm and that it is the duty of the living to meet their needs. In return, the ancestors give advice and bring good fortune.” https://www.vietnam-culture.com/articles-107-3/Ancestor-worship.aspx It’s more like the ancestors are here. They are living spirits. Not acknowledging that they are here, is like having someone literally sitting at your kitchen stable and you don’t talk to them, acknowledge them, consult them or even feed them. It’s just rude. It’s not even really a religion, it’s just a reality. The ancestors are here literally right here. Why not ask their advice? Why not have them in your dreams help you fight your demons? Duh.
I was going to write a normal hopeful Wednesday post. But I realize that I only need one reason to be hopeful today. Today, Dr. Rachel Abbot is going to give a Climate and Health Talk at our HMO Family Practice. And that is my biggest reason to hope today. I posted something on our medical group facebook group which I’ll post again.
“I used to be a voracious reader. Speed-reading throug the all the romantics Austen, Brontes, George Elliot. I read Middlemarch in 8th grade in one weekend and I think didn’t eat, and almost fainted from being dehydrated. I was so immersed in the fictional story being spin. But what I realized in my middle age is that the stories are right here all around us. And those stories if I take time to stop, and to notice – are as real and heart-warming and heart-wrenching as any I can find in the pages of a novel.
I was having a conversation with a wonderful person the other day. We talked about wellness and physican burnout, and just catching up with eachother in life. But even wonderful people (including Dr. Plastic Picker) sometimes we have comments and snippets of conversations that are not helpful about others. I used to be a culprit. I’m not sure if I was worse than others, but certainly party to it too. Everytime I talk to this particular person or think about about 4 pediatricians in our group that came from the same department before they reached our HMO, I am reminded what a culture of bullying does to a group of young physicians. I am not sure what was exactly going on at the local children’s hospital in town in the emergency room, but it was toxic. Toxic enough that we had a mass migration and mass attempted migration of pediatricians into our HMO. We needed per diems at that time, but not that many phyisicans. As is with the nature of things, some we hired. Some work part-time. And some went on to other cities and hopefully went on to have solid careers.
Wow. How did it become June already? I think I’ll post my monthly bag totals later this week. I did make it to 20 bags and have in total collected 464 bags and salvaged 1617 items. I’ve added a new category called “organics” when I find fallen fruit or the odd banana peel, and if it inspires me – I’ll bring it home and throw it into the composter. Yesterday was a large bread bag full of plastic waste along Tourmaline to La Jolla, and mostly plastic bags that floated back onto shore. I noticed so many little crabs yesterday along the rocks. The cactus that sits framing the view of the cove along the outlook was blooming yesterday. I’ve never seen those cacti bloom. I wonder if it has to do with climate change?
It’s funny how the math works out, and how life has a rhythm to it. In about 2 months right at my 2 year blogging anniversary I’ll about reach bag 500. My goal is to blog for at least another 2 years, and get to bag 1000 while still working and living life. The plastic picking and ocean cleaning and the blogging, is about giving me time to reflect and write about silly things for fun. Often times the blogging has been painful but necessary, and I thank you for following along this journey. At some point I’ll take it all down from the internet and sort and choose what to put in a book. Then keep those special pieces just for myself. For now, I’m living this journey out loud in hopes that it helps my fellow physicians and also the earth.
It was another beautiful 20 bags. I have to believe each bag makes a difference. I saw someone yesterday also cleaning the beach in my remote corner in the early morning, and it was such a beautiful sight. I waved to him. He waved back and had a Gold Retriever with him. His bag was green.
It’s been a world-wind two years, especially the last year. While everyone was holed up and quarantining at home, our department went to the office every single day. We worked the entire time. With more time at home though because the kids were home and the rest of the world shut down, I further dived into climate advocacy work. I am proud of that work. Wrote a paper, spoke at what seemed like a gazillion virtual conferences, picked up almost 500 bags of trash, and kept up the blogging and climate advocacy recruiting, But the world is opening up and I’m resting right now. I still have projects coming up. Next weekend we have a PHAC dinner and need to socialize with the beautiful people in the slide. I’m actually looking forward to it. Going to make Mr. Plastic Picker come as well. It will be good for him. Our fearless leader Dr. Bruce Bekkar gave us a big shout out at the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health Conference, which I attended virtually with an HMO colleage. One of the UCSD medical students and the the two pharmacy student leaders from VCU Sustainable Pharmacay Project also attended. I didn’t check up on the three students, but I did nudge UCSD to pay for one’s registration and the other two students I paid for them to register. Technically we still have a day of meetings tonight. But I’ve lobbied already and there are enough people. At some point, you need to know as a climate advocate when you’ve done enough and let others help. Another pediatrician and the other premed student are going to help, as they’ve essentially planned and done everthing for the journal club on Clean Air that is upcoming. The social media ad that our premed intern made is really beautiful. I’m excited about that. Then there is the Eco-America training early June.
I think the reason a certain family does not understand why another family member and I are in contract to buy an Oregon Ranch, is that he does not understand that Dr. Plastic Picker is an introvert. I could not understand why this senior family member did not approve of my joy in this property. But now being in my mid 40s and a student of human nature, I know that even I did not not truly know myself before embarking on this eco-avatar journey. The writing/blogging. The walks in nature. The time I’ve spent doing things because it felt right and I wanted something new. I know myself. I know what makes me happy. I know to listen to the earth. And mother earth told me to buy this 193 acre ranch on Southwestern Oregon https://drplasticpicker.com/i-found-it-193-acres-in-southwest-oregon/. I think mother nature gave me that cavity I mentioned yesterday that required the root canal that required me being incapacitated in bed, and then allowed me time to stumble upon this property searching on my iPhone. I’m totally serious.
Yesterday was another epic climate work day. If you were at the climate change and health meeting last night, I apologize if I sounded a bit manic. Tuesdays is my “admin day” and during my paying hours I stay true to my tasks that I am paid for. I had vaccine quality meeting, per diem physician meetings, sustainability emails, talking to schedulers and just trying to nudge the department on a forward path. It’s amazing how many time-booby traps are out there. Half of my job is to keep on scanning the HMO landscape of all the ways our department can go and yell “TURN TURN TURN” before we get sucked into the wrong direction. That can be the wrong physician, wrong project, wrong quality metric. For now, that is the role I play and I’m not shy about it. But it can be discombobulating at times. Right now I’m working on reorganizing this very large HMO committee into something functional and impactful. We will get there but there are a lot of politics and fine details that need to be worked out.
But then I had the climate work and it was indeed an epic day. To summarize what happened for the blog readership
HMO Green Team: I thought this one was in the bag but the upper upper management person emailed confirmed my interest and Dr. DN. I thought we had already told the upper upper management person that we were going to do it. But anyway, it’s official now and we will share the role which comes with no time and no pay. Figures. But we are going to make it great and save the earth via greening our little corner of the healthcare sector, and then the time and pay will come later. And even if it does not come, it’s the right thing to do. I pick up trash for free, and I’ll do this. In the end money is a proxy for time and efforts. But what is the value of money if we don’t prevent Planet Earth from becoming like Vulcan. Vulcans can live without water for days. I am rewatching the Star Trek Enterprise. But we humans have not evolved to that extent now. I think it’s easier to try to fight to keep global warming to less than 1.5 degrees centigrade than evolve to live without water for a week.
Gril Scout Troop Brownie Troop Outing/Trash Art Project: I became connected with a brownie troop in our area a few months ago and delivered a talk to them. They have our patches. The girls were so adorable I can’t begin to tell you. Trying to keep my circle of influence authentic and manageable, I offered to do a litter pick with them and a trash art project. We are in conversations right now. I have reached out more because I thought they were really fun, and it’s something I want to do. So I’ve saved the day for them.
Committee Meeting: Above is our climate change and health commitee. The actual committee is about 30 people, but these are the ones that showed up. It doesn’t seem like a lot of people, but they are all leading big efforts that we needed to catch up on and discuss. It was a very impactful 30 minutes and exchange of ideas. I am so grateful for each of them. Truly.
Climate Change and Health Rotation: We actually talked about this a bit yesterday at the committee meeting. Several offered to precept. We talked about strategizing it into a fellowship eventually. I’ve already begun to collate relevant articles. I have to learn not to rush things. Several of us are attending the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health this weekend, and it will be a natural time to text and flush out the rotation. There is nothing like that now in our area and I think 2 residents initially, one rotation in April and another in May would be good. We shall see. I think I need to sketch it out and hand it over to someone else to bring across the finish line. This is a manageable project for someone. I forget how much I’ve done in the past. The pediatric rotation that exists in our HMO was started by myself and an old mentor. I helped start that and I forgot all about it. So there is precedent. This rotation I’m more committed to and it will need my presence.
Healing Gardens: Sounds like our particular office is going to get approval for a healing garden. I hope they put in pollinators and make it a monarch habitat. It’s so easy. Then you can put a sign on up. I heard about this from another departmental leader. I really do think the butterfly kit project helped propel this idea a bit. But it will be so nice to have a place to walk and sit during lunch. I’m still trying to green the top of the parking structure, but those planters are really rough. The soil is coming back to life but I don’t know how many years it is going to take.
But rather than waiting for years for things to happen, I’ve realized that with all the above projects that I need to reach out. Find help. Sometimes the help comes from unexpected corners. I try not to force projects, just put my head down and keep plugging away. And sometimes I look up and I see a bird for inspiration or I see a beautiful face of a fellow pediatrician lending a hand. In the end this task of stopping climate change is monumental and existential. When I accepted that, that it when I learned to reach out and ask for help. And for everyone out there who shows up, whether it be at last nights meeting, or all the multitude of ways we can move the needle on climate change – just thank you. Thank you for showing up and getting to work. Hope is earned. Hope is earned through action.
I got through the day yesterday. I was definitely dragging during morning clinic. My sleep schedule was off due to blogging at 2am rather than at 4am, and then after finishing a blogpost – I went to sleep on the couch. Obviously I was not able to finish an entire sleep cycle. Therefore I woke up groggy and not in my best form. But I dragged by eco-avatar middle aged body through the morning routine and was able to make it into work. I forgot my phone at home which ended up being a blessing in disguise. An entire day of phone detox is a good thing. I sent an email out to the department to let them know I had no phone, and just to call if there were issues. There were no issues that I was aware of. There are many of us in leadership that were available via instant text, so my being in my office just an actual email away – was okay.
My family member and I (our two families) put in an offer for a 25-acre ranch on the Big Island of Hawaii. It’s surprising that even with the hot real estate market, there are only two financial entities in the world looking for a 25 acre ranch on the Big Island in that particular lava zone. Yes we have to know about lava zones if you are buying on the Big Island. As always we are trying to get a reasonable deal, so offered lower than the asking price. We will be the back-up offer as they accepted an offer already. But it is contingent on financing and selling another property. With real estate, many many things can happen to derail a transaction. We are experienced buyers in a strong position who can get the deal done. This is reflected in our lower offer though. So we will wait and see, and if it happens – it happens. If it doesn’t, than that’s the market and we move on.
I’m done with being afraid. It makes sense for some to be afraid, if you’ve lived through abuse, been hungry, worried about being able to survive the next day. I get it. I am lucky. I have had difficult moments to overcome in life that made me fearful. We all have especially women. It makes sense to be cautious when you are worried about survival. But now that I’m on the other side of what is the “Fear Zone” and into the “Learning and Growth Zone” I don’t want to go back.
If not me, than who? I declared that I was going to help save the earth by gathering one pieace of plastic at a time and I’m almost to 500 bags! I’ve encouraged a movement of climate activism in my small corner of the world and we’ve made real changes. Some of this is about plastic, but it’s also a metaphor about life. Not to waste life. Not to waste resources. To be creative. To free ourselves from the conventional life and conventional thinking, it order to tap into that authenic self in order to find true contentment and also to help save the earth. It’s all related.